Overseas Pakistanis to be part of election process, SC told

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The Supreme Court (SC) was informed on Thursday that homework on the exercise to include overseas Pakistanis in the forthcoming general elections had been completed.

The SC was further apprised that a recent meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other functionaries of the government had discussed the issue of providing right to franchise to overseas Pakistanis and came to a conclusion that their participation would be ensured.

This was told to a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed when it resumed hearing into the identical constitutional petitions of Imran Khan and others.

During the course of the proceeding, ECP Director General Sher Afgan apprised the bench regarding the meetings held at the ECP between all the stakeholders on April 9 and 10.

He said the meetings came to a conclusion that the inclusion of overseas Pakistanis in the upcoming election was quite possible and taking the first step it was decided that initially Pakistanis residing in 10 countries would be included in this exercise.

“About 4.5 million registered voters are residing in other countries, of which 3.5 million are in the Middle East and 2.9 million out of this figure are currently living only in two countries of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” he informed the court.

Afgan further apprised the court that in Saudi Arabia about one million Pakistanis had manual passports, thus they would not be able to take part in the elections because the machine readable passport (MRP) was a pre-requisite.

The ECP DG said NADRA had made E-voting software for the expatriates which would be utilised during the elections.

Upon which, Justice Gulzar asked when an overseas would caste his vote in another country, his vote could also be used in his own constituency which would be tantamount to using one vote twice.

However, the ECP DG brushed away this notion, saying there would be meager chances of mistakes in the current E-voting system.

Attorney General for Pakistan Irfan Qadir told the court that the first step towards materialising this goal would be legislation.

The AG said including certain clauses in the legislation would make the process of giving right to the expatriates in the forthcoming elections easier.

Qadir apprised the court that once the process of legislation was completed, they would need help of the Ministry for Overseas Pakistanis and the Foreign Office.

Afgan said the process of issuing visas to the staff appointed in foreign missions would take two to three weeks.

The chief justice praised the ECP, NADRA and other government functionaries for their hard work and devotion in making the task possible.

Later, the proceedings were adjourned for 10 days. The SC also directed the ECP to submit a further report on the legislation and other matters.

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